A year ago, Eagleville enjoyed its first undefeated regular season in school history.
Five seasons ago, Oakland football coach Thomas McDaniel directed the Patriots to a Class 5A football state title.
Both programs were blessed with talented players for their respective classification. However, both also enjoyed luck in that they stayed virtually injury free.
Neither can say the same this season.
Eagleville (3-4), Oakland (5-3) and Riverdale (5-2) have opportunities to potentially lock down wild card berths for the playoffs with wins Friday night. All three programs have put themselves in position to do so despite having significant injuries.
“It’s part of the job,” McDaniel said. “It happens every year at some position or another. It hurts your depth. I know Riverdale and us have been hit with the (injury) bug pretty good.
“I’ve said it before. I was on several great teams at Riverdale (as an assistant) and coached a state championship team at Oakland High School. You’ve got to have great players to win it. But you need luck too. And I don’t just mean having the ball bounce your way. You have to stay healthy.”
McDaniel has played this season without receiver LaDarius Gaines (ACL), running back Fred Wade (ACL) and linebacker Josh Smith (MCL). Defensive lineman Anthony Akers has missed the majority of the season with injuries, and McDaniel said recently his season is also over. Back-up running back Travon Willis battled a high ankle sprain at one point of the season, limiting his role for about a month.
And recently, Emmanuel Smith, who starts at quarterback and free safety, missed last week’s game with Ravenwood because of an ankle injury. McDaniel said Emmanuel Smith will be available if needed Friday night when the Patriots (5-3, 1-2) host Smyrna (1-6, 1-2).
Riverdale’s top defensive lineman Rakis Ivy is out for the year with an ACL injury. And Mariko Odom, who was the Warriors’ top rusher and receiver before breaking a bone in his ankle during a Week 5 loss to Hendersonville, will miss his second straight game and also is likely out for the rest of the year.
“Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good,” Riverdale coach Ron Aydelott said.
Aydelott said when his Hillsboro team won the Class 4A state title in 2003 the team lost its fullback to an injury during the semifinals.
“You can lose some at a position and have a one-game fix,” Aydelott said. “But you can’t lose the wrong kids or kids at positions you are thin at. If you do, it’s devastating.”
One devasting loss this past season was when Riverdale quarterback Dillon Woodruff tore his ACL in the 6A quarterfinals. That left one week to get backup Andrew Dale up to speed against top-ranked Maryville, which beat Riverdale and went on to win its second straight 6A state title.
Eagleville coach Steve Carson had injuries begin to mount before the Eagles put pads on for the first time. Maison Vallance had a shoulder separation before the first contact practice. Two linemen tore MCLs during the first week in pads, and it has only continued since the season began with running back Chris Hale and fullback Blake Solomon both being out with injuries. Hale and Solomon could be back for Friday’s game at MTCS.
“We did not have an injury last year,” Carson said. “In my 18 years of coaching I’ve never experienced something like that. We were an injury away at every position from being a team that may struggle.
“We’re going to have to have situations like that where we don’t have injuries to be undefeated. You have to have minimal injuries and have a little luck on your side.”